Planning for new residential developments north of the Western Freeway and further west of Ballarat will be accelerated under council plans to supply more greenfield land for housing.
But key questions remain about how this high-demand growth will be supported and serviced without changing the fundamental fabric of Ballarat.
Councillors approved a motion to include rezoning the two areas earmarked for future growth as Urban Growth Zone at the same time the planning scheme is amended.
According to council officers, this will streamline the process to begin detailed planning work to address an undersupply of in-demand new land.
FROM OCTOBER: Councillors vote on future Ballarat suburbs
The proposed boundaries of the growth zone will be presented to council separately, and council will partner with "landowners and developers" for technical work and contribution schemes.
While the motion passed, several councillors expressed concerns about the planned 50-50 split between new greenfield developments and inner-city infill, as well as the need for accessible infrastructure and services to improve amenity, and pushing for more sustainable building.
Councillors were told the city faced a shortage of land to develop without rapid intervention - infrastructure and environment director Natalie Robertson said if the fast-tracking was approved, detailed planning could be completed within four years.
The number of lots sold this year through existing growth suburbs like Lucas had increased by "100 percent", Ms Robertson said.
"The numbers are stacking up that we're actually behind in developing our new growth areas," she said.
Representing 10 developers, Mike Kaufmann submitted takeup for residential lots in western Ballarat was "just north of 1000 lots per year".
THE PROPOSED NORTHERN GROWTH ZONE
"That's roughly double what demand was considered to be," he told council.
"That's one of the reasons for the urgency."
However, a major part of Ballarat's overall growth plan is for infill development, to attract more people to live in the CBD - councillors asked if the accelerated plans would undercut demand for inner-city living.
"As I understand it, we are tracking quite well in respect to that, we're confident it is 50-50, but we're also confident that the need for new land development will outweigh the infill development as we progress," Ms Robertson said in reply.
"We'll have developed infill long before we've established the growth areas if we keep going at this rate, and we'll not have further growth areas to work on."
Mr Kaufmann said the city would eventually hit a "critical mass", similar to Geelong, which would spur more infill proposals.
THE PROPOSED WESTERN GROWTH ZONE
Another concern was amenities and public transport - while Mr Kaufmann noted there was double the amount of open space and parkland in newer developments, infrastructure planning needed to keep up.
Councillor Jim Rinaldi suggested light rail across the city could be a solution to ensure new developments maintain council's compact "10 Minute City" should growth continue on the edges of town.
Mr Kaufmann went a step further, and stated city planning needed to push for new train stations in high-growth zones, noting Bendigo and Geelong have several more stations than Ballarat.
"I think with the enormous investment in infrastructure in rail through to Melbourne and Southern Cross Station, I believe council should be lobbying the government very strongly to say we should be planning for a number of new stations in Ballarat," he said.
"I believe it's not a matter of saying that station versus this station, we should have a planned position around systematically advocating for a number of stations in order they're needed.
"You put those stations around town in different locations is going to help with development.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAVE YOUR SAY BELOW
"The (state) Department of Transport needs to be consulted with, the rate of growth in some of these western suburbs might have caught them by surprise.
"We need to make sure public transport is actually filtering into these areas at the required rate."
Councillor Daniel Moloney, seconding the motion, concurred.
"My concerns are eased hearing we haven't abandoned our 50-50 (infill and greenfield development) plan," he said.
"We've got to make sure infrastructure keeps pace with growth, I'm not convinced we've always done this - we're obviously pushing pretty hard for the Link Road as a result, but it can't be all roads based either.
IN THE NEWS
"I understand people have cars and need to be able to use them efficiently, but we've got to be planning for Ballarat station number three, four, and five.
"People in Geelong, from the outer suburbs, come in by train, it's the sort of thing Melburnians do without thinking of it ... over time, we need to be thinking the same way.
"We need to be not just partnering with developers and investors, but also the state and federal governments, they're the parties that hold the significant pursestrings so infrastructure can keep up with growth."
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